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Patients' reasons why they can't commit to a dental appointment are many, so we've got some persuasive reBUTTals for you to try.

Putting "but's" in the chair: Overcoming excuses

April 30, 2024
Patients' reasons why they can't commit to a dental appointment are many, so we've got some persuasive reBUTTals.

If I asked you to make a list of good reasons why people should visit your office for dental care, you would probably run out of ink.

On the other hand, patients seem to have their own endless lists of reasons not to follow through on dental care appointments. Deep down, they know it’s something they should do. However, “I should schedule an appointment” is frequently followed by “but …”

Considering that you likely invest a lot of time, effort, and money into generating new patient leads, getting those “but’s” into the chair is highly important if you want to optimize your marketing ROI.

Below, I offer some of my best advice for effectively using marketing strategies and messaging to overcome patients' most common objections to scheduling dental appointments.

“… but it’s going to hurt.”

Pain can be a powerful de-motivator when it comes to visiting the dentist. Using testimonials, whether video or written, from other patients who talk about how painless their procedures actually were will help calm their fears.

“… but it will be expensive.”

If the pain they're feeling is in their wallet, address how you make dental care affordable in your web copy, landing pages, and FAQ. Add direct links to CareCredit or Cherry financing on your site, and promote your in-office plan, if you offer one.

“… but I don’t have time.”

Busy lifestyles are a frequent excuse for putting things off. You can highlight early morning, end-of-day, or weekend appointments (if available) to let people know there is some flexibility to accommodate their hectic schedules.

“… but I have anxiety issues.”

There are many ways to calm nerves during an appointment, but to put people at ease prior to coming in, you need to let them know there’s nothing to worry about. Talk up sedation options such as nitrous, oral, or IV sedation. If you have something nonconventional—such as a therapy dog, waiting room aquarium, or even a hypnotist—make this a highlight.

“… but my last dental visit was a bad experience.”

One bad dentist can ruin things for everyone. The key is to prove that you’re different from the previous office they visited. Highlight your new patient experience and how you schedule time just to get to know the patient and listen to their concerns. Make your office a judgment-free zone. Talk about how patients are not just a number or a faceless chart, but someone you build a relationship with.

“… but I don’t know or trust this dentist.”

If a new patient has a trust issue with you, they’ll almost certainly search high and low for reviews. Make sure you ask your happy patients for reviews and testimonials frequently … and make sure they end up on your website, social media, and Google.

“… but I can wait and do it some other time.”

You know quite well that the longer dental care waits, the worse it gets. But do your patients realize that? Talking about how the earlier you catch a problem, the less expensive it will be and the more natural tooth structure will be preserved can be a good way to discourage procrastination. 

“… but it’s inconvenient.”

Show them it’s not! Make it easy to find an appointment with online scheduling. Simplify finding the answers to questions on your website. Offer online chat. Let them pay bills electronically. Provide convenient parking and a convenient location. Minimize the hassle of new patient paperwork. And let them know you’ve gone to all these lengths to make their visit hassle free.

“… but I’ve never even heard of this dentist.”

Brand awareness is one of the most important things you need to establish if you’re going to gain potential patients’ trust. Get your name out there through as many marketing channels as possible, and don’t underestimate the importance of your outdoor signage!

“… but I’m skeptical about the treatment’s effectiveness.”

A picture is worth a thousand words, so before and after photos have to be worth at least twice as much when it comes to esthetic results. Including those images in expanded case studies can also reinforce the results that were achieved. The more you can show them, the better. After all, seeing is believing.

“… but I have general discomfort with dental visits.”

Honestly, who enjoys visiting the dentist? What people do enjoy is friendly, welcoming interaction with the office team members. Acknowledge that a general dislike for dental visits is common, but your happy, smiling team will make them feel at ease.

Admittedly, for this list of common objections, there are probably dozens of others that patients will come up with. However, focusing on the biggest “but’s” should be enough to get you by. (Note: after reading that sentence out loud, perhaps I could have phrased it differently.)

Xaña Winans, Fellow, IADFE - CEO and founder of Golden Proportions Marketing, is a board member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants and has been awarded a Fellowship in the International Academy of Dental Facial Aesthetics. She lectures and publishes regularly about dental marketing. Xaña’s agency provides goal-driven, full-service solutions including branding, website design, advertising, and digital marketing. Visit goldenproportions.com to learn more.